“Got my shot!” I texted, feeling pretty proud

This entire pandemic has been like an apocalyptic science fiction movie. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my visit to a mass vaccination site continued the bizarre adventure.

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle receiving a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Tinley Park Convention Center on Jan. 25. Earlier this week, columnist Phil Kadner got his first vaccine shot at the center.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“Don’t worry, he’s got his shots.”

That sentence has most often been used in the past to reassure humans bitten by a dog that they would not soon be frothing at the mouth.

I was thinking about how the meaning has changed as I received my second COVID-19 vaccination a few days ago. “Don’t worry,” I can reassure people. “I have my shots.”

This entire pandemic has been like an apocalyptic science fiction movie. People wearing masks. Stores closed due to quarantine. Folks giving out “air hugs” to avoid touching each other.

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It shouldn’t have surprised me that the scene at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site continued this bizarre adventure.

I went to the Tinley Park Convention Center for my second shot because I couldn’t break the secret code on Walgreen’s web site, where I had arranged for my first shot. But somebody had told me to phone Cook County’s vaccination hotline, which I did. I spoke to an actual human after only a few minutes on hold, and was given a date and time at the convention center.

As I approached the center, I was immediately struck by the efficiency of the operation. There were traffic cones lining a route through the parking lot and arrows and signs directing everyone to an entrance point inside.

Drivers could park their cars a short distance away or be dropped off about 100 yards from the door. There were National Guardsmen in uniform spread out nearby to make sure we didn’t fight for position or — more likely given our ages, for the most part, of 65 and over — wander off.

We all carried our papers and smart phones.

You had to flash a special invitation containing a two-dimensional data matrix barcode to a National Guardsman soon after stepping inside the convention center. The email advised using a cell phone to display the code but some of us, being old and cynical, decided to print out copies.

After the initial identification, we were instructed to step up to people sitting behind a long row of folding tables and hand them our government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, and our electronic reservation code.

And then it was on to another station for further checks. At some point I was asked to show a small card containing information about my first injection. This card (now containing info about both my vaccinations) is a sacred thing. I have a laminated copy now, as well as a photo of it stored in my smart phone. I fastened the original to my refrigerator with a magnet.

I figure I may need proof of my shots in the future, in the same way that I sometimes need to show proof of my Social Security number now.

Anyway, the entire process was run with military efficiency and I must say all the guardsmen I ran into were very polite.

Nevertheless, I kept thinking of the great Apple Macintosh commercial that played during the Super Bowl, the one that featured long lines of people in gray uniforms marching in step as a Big Brother-type spoke from a massive TV screen:

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives,” he said.

Sleeve rolled up, I sat down at a nurse’s station. The vaccination was almost painless, and I was then directed to a 15-minute holding area with folding chairs for people who might experience a negative reaction.

We timed ourselves. No one seemed to have a problem. One by one we got up and followed more signs and traffic cones out into the parking lot.

Everyone seemed to be on their cell phones.

“Got my shots!” I texted. 

I was proud. Some people don’t properly care for their pets, or for other people.


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